Don’t Drop Out to Make it in the Music World.
Join the Night Shift.
Students of L.A.’s Citrus College Mega Band, Night Shift, Join the Pro Circuit
ONE of the biggest concerns with higher education today is whether graduates can find employment when they enter the “real world.”
Night Shift is a high-energy dance band performing cover tunes in their original form and in creatively altered arrangements. They perform at over 100 engagements per year. The music ranges from the 1960s to today’s Top 40 hits – the same music that the students study through the college’s music program. While the members rotate, the group generally consists of vocals (lead and background), a rhythm section (keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion) and horns (saxophone, trombone, and trumpet).
Three music industry leaders, Robert Slack, Douglas Austin and Alan Waddington, created the program. They have performed and worked with the likes of Paul Anka, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Gwen Stefani. The staff, all with extensive backgrounds in the entertainment business, provides instruction for the program. Citrus College music professor Gino Munoz, who oversees the booking of students with public and private engagements, said, “The overall experience of being in the performing arts program at Citrus College rivals and often exceeds major universities.” In addition to performing live, students have recording opportunities in the college’s world-class recording studios and can gain stage produc- tion experience through touring acts.
When asked about the recording studio, program co-founder Robert Slack said, “Last year, Melissa Manchester came in to record. She had guest artists — Dionne Warwick, Al Jarreau and Stevie Wonder... When you put these world-class musicians in a production for Disney, you’re teaching at a really high level and you’re really setting the hook deep for these kids.”
Slack also praised the staff that helps to make everything happen. “Every one of our guys has a very deep resume, and they impart that sense of urgency to the students. Tim Jaquette, who runs this facility, is a platinum and gold award-winning engineer. He is no-nonsense. You walk into the room and you’re walking into a professional recording studio in Hollywood. You’re not going to come in here and play around. You’re not going to not pay attention.”
One of the most incredible things about the program is the price. The college caters to students who have a profound passion but are on a budget. “I think particularly for a community college, we are completely impactful because the word is out,” said Slack. “Our dream was to teach at the highest level of any conservatory or professional training session, but for kids who couldn’t afford to go to USC [University of Southern California]. at’s where the real passion is. Can you imagine a young person walking in here for $35-$40 a credit? Basically for $500 a semester, they can go to school.”
Citrus College also works with schools overseas. “One of the schools we work with in Japan requested a composition session,” Slack said. “So Alan contacted Steve Bartek, who is Danny Elfman’s orchestrator. Danny agreed and Columbia Pictures gave us the cues for Alice in Wonderland. All of the composing students in Japan got to re-compose and re-imagine those scenes for 10-minute clips. We put an orchestra in here and they got to record their own cues. at’s powerful international education. They come to L.A., work with a real composer and re-score something, and they walk out with that litttle cue.”
Is the program producing results?
Students have gone on to perform and work with artists such as Gwen Stefani, No Doubt, Neil Young, Green Day, Chris Cornell, The O spring, Andy Grammar, Ryan Adams, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, Bon Jovi, KISS and U2. Some students have also performed on Carnival Cruise Lines and at venues in New York, Las Vegas, Japan, Hong Kong and parts of Europe.
Students praise the experience they gain from the program and the communication skills they learn – not only learning how to connect with their audience, but also how to get along with other industry professionals. One student, Miranda, said, “We do really high-end gigs, which is pretty awesome because not a lot of people get to do what we do at our age.”
When asked about what he’s gotten out of the program, Reuben, a vocalist, said, “Basically my vocals have gotten better, my stage presence, being able to do backgrounds, move at the same time – and a lot of experience! Now I know what it’s going to be like when I step into the game.” tj
The complete article can be found in Issue #278 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.